Sven Dekleermaeker - landscape

Ambassador of GOESTING

Sven Dekleermaeker - portret
Sven Dekleermaeker
Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat

Sven Dekleermaeker

“Is this beer perfect or what,” rejoices Sven Dekleermaeker as he raises an amber-toned Bolleke to his lips. As this iconic beer’s own brewmaster, he may not be entirely unbiased. All the same, his enthusiasm is infectious. “Bolleke De Koninck is a Special Belge, an older style of beer with a special story behind it. Around 1900, Belgians preferred to drink beer from England and Germany, so the universities decided to hold a competition for a new Belgian beer.

Special Belge, a top-fermented beer with an amber colour due to the use of caramel malt, won the competition. It is not too high in alcohol; at only 5%, it’s no stronger than pilsner. The lack of bitterness and mild fruity flavour make for a very drinkable beer. If I were stranded on a deserted island with just one beer, I’d want it to be a Bolleke De Koninck (laughing)”.

From biological engineer to beer specialist

Sven originally studied biological engineering and was drawn into the world of brewing through his thesis. He had opted to work on a research project at KU Leuven’s laboratory for malting and brewing technology. The study concerned the connection between ageing of Belgian specialty beers and drinks such as port, madeira and sherry. “I had to collect samples from a whole series of breweries. Everywhere I came, the brewers gave me a personal tour and insisted on sharing a pint. I found the beer-brewing world to be a welcoming community that is generous with its knowledge.”

After time at AB InBev and Alken Maes, Sven landed at the famed Duvel-Moortgat brewery. “I’ve learned a great deal here. Duvel is a special beer with a distinctive taste and colour thanks to its unique yeast. That yeast is a particular beast, and you have to get to know it.”


Beer pairings and experience in one place

"You can easily fill a day here. Start off with a tour of our beer’s history, then sample a few brews at the café and finish up with a meal at one of our two restaurants."

After Sven had been managing Duvel’s brewing for a few years, Duvel-Moortgat acquired De Koninck, Antwerp’s city brewery. “I moved to this site to handle the production of the famous Bolleke. This beer gained its nickname due to the rounded glasses in which it is served.” Besides beer production, the new site also offered Sven room to experiment. “We invited various craftspeople to set up shop on site at our brewery. They currently have a cheese shop, a chocolatier, a bakery and a butcher’s shop.

We also organise regular tasting sessions for beer and chocolate or cheese pairings. You can easily fill a day here. Start off with a tour of our beer’s history, then sample a few brews at the café and finish up with a meal at one of our two restaurants. If you still have room, visit one of the shops. What more could you ask for?”

World’s most exclusive beers

To Sven, the brewery is a playground where in addition to Bolleke’s production, he can have fun experimenting. For example, in summer he brews Lost in Spice, a beer that starts with the same base as Bolleke, but then adds spices such as cardamom and ginger, lemon and orange peel at the end of the brewing process. “Everyone’s heard of dry hopping, but we practice dry spicing,” says Sven. “A term that didn’t exist previously, that we’ve introduced thanks to Lost in Spice.” In winter the brewery serves Winterkoninck, a spicy, darker version of Bolleke, or Winterkoningin, a beer that gains its spiciness from the addition of spices to the water during mashing. “An innovative process that had never been tried before.” Even deeper in the brewery’s cellars, a Russian Imperial Stout is ageing in old whisky, rum and sherry barrels. “The result is a unique brew that is hardly recognisable as beer. The smoky version is especially interesting; it’s aged in a barrel that used to contain a heavily peated whisky. Additionally, I’m convinced the beer tastes so good because the cellars are filled with the sound of Barry White day and night (laughing).”

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